Final Greetings from Zambia

Posted by Rachel Brittain on Mon, 07 Aug 2017 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

Yes – internet connection again! I returned to Kitwe from the Fiwila Mission Station with Bishop Derek Kamukwamba yesterday evening (Thursday 3rd August) after a five-hour car journey half of which was off road and an experience in itself. The bishop is an experienced driver and knew the road conditions well so I was in safe hands. I’ve spent the last six days with the Bishop and some of his family at Fiwila – a naturally beautiful location deep in the bush.

The mission station at Fiwila was the last of four to be established by British and Irish Anglicans in 1924 under the auspices of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) later to become SPG and more recently USPG. Following Zambian independence in 1964 British/Irish Anglicans stayed on working at the mission station until the early 1980s when the last of them left. Nowadays the clergy at Fiwila are all Zambian Anglicans.

At Fiwila there is a worshipping community, primary and secondary schools, a health centre, a small round chapel for the Anglican ‘Little Sisters of Jesus’, a larger church (The Holy Name) and some basic visitor accommodation. The warmth of welcome from the Zambian people to a stranger in their midst was again genuine, humbling and incredible all at the same time.

The priest-in-charge and deacon are also the head teachers of the primary and secondary schools respectively. Both are impressive men, particularly the deacon who in addition is a chief officer with the local police service, is due to be ordained priest on Sunday 6th August and is currently undertaking a law degree through extension studies.

Bishop Derek who is currently in the final stages of doctorate research on the subject of mission was generous in the time he spent with me and I enjoyed our relaxed and joyful conversations. These provided me with useful insights into Zambian culture, context and church life. We even got to climb a mountain (might be stretching it – big hill) overlooking the mission station – with spectacular views allowing a glimpse of God’s wonderful creation. To cap it all I met and spoke with a Zambian Chief who would like to see greater interchange of clergy – with more Zambian clergy spending time in the UK and Ireland and vice versa.

This Zambian excursion has brought home to me the importance of building and maintaining good relationships. For Zambian people relationships are more important than being somewhere on time.

Consequently it was not unusual for me to witness on several occasions over the past two weeks clergy simply stopping what they were doing to converse with the local people who were always grateful and responded positively.

I’ve enjoyed making and building new relationships with my Zambian Anglican brothers and sisters which I trust can be developed over time. To Keith and Lyn Scott I am indebted for being the most generous, kind and loving hosts and they deserve our faithful prayers and support in the important work to which God has called them at St John’s Seminary, Zambia.

Being in Zambia has been excellent preparation for whatever lies ahead for me within God’s plan. I am thankful for my family at home in Northern Ireland, the prayers of support from many friends, good health and the safe travel I’ve enjoyed. I’ve learned to trust more and to lean in hard on God especially over the last few days when I received news on Tuesday afternoon (1st August) of the sudden passing of my dear Father-in-Law last Sunday (30th July).

Norman J McC Smyth was a decent and good man full of love and his funeral was held in Belfast yesterday (3rd August). Bishop Derek arranged a service of celebration for Norman’s life in Fiwila which included the Eucharist to coincide with his funeral at home. Norman would have smiled at the thought. I imagined the service in Fiwila would include simply the Bishop, Priest-in-Charge, an Anglican nun and me. To my joyful surprise the secondary pupils paraded out of school and attended the service, along with teachers and the school choir. The Body of Christ was in attendance at Belfast and Fiwila thousands of miles apart and yet not – for as St Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NRSV)

In thanking Bishop Derek afterwards, his humble gentle response was, “That is what we do as Anglicans.”

In order to be with my wife, Alison and family at this time arrangements have been made for me to return home to Belfast a week earlier than originally planned, and I am extremely grateful to the CMSI team in Belfast plus Keith for putting these arrangements in train.

Take care and God Bless.

William Jeffrey

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